QUAKER ROLE IN SALEM WITCH TRIALS.
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Examines the 2 conflicting forces of fanatical belief (Puritans) & humanism & universal tolerance (Society of Friends). Overview of Quaker religious beliefs. Puritan intolerance.... More...
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Examines the 2 conflicting forces of fanatical belief (Puritans) & humanism & universal tolerance (Society of Friends). Overview of Quaker religious beliefs. Puritan intolerance.
This paper is an examination of the role of members of the Society of Friends in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. The trials had their beginnings in 1691, the year that George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, died. These two events suggest the worst and the best aspects of religious freedom in America. The trials show the dangers associated with unchecked, fanatical belief, while Fox's followers demonstrate the transcending power of humanism and universal tolerance. These two conflicting forces illustrate the very human need to find meaning and a sense of control in the face of fear, uncertainty, and mortality. The religious order that grew to be known as Quakerism had its roots in the writings of an Englishman named George Fox. First published in 1647, Fox spoke of his sense of the "Christ
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Some of those suspected of witchcraft in nearby Andoverhappened to have Quaker connections as well; those connections made themmore suspicious in the eyes of the Puritan judges and more believable aspotential witches. The Puritan beliefin the rightness of its own cause, at the expense of all others, is one ofthe greatest potential hazards to allowing religious freedom. Friends believe that these qualities are essentialto the individual's ability to perceive the inner light. Eventually, those whoembraced Fox's writings came to be known as the Society of Friends. The trials show the dangers associated withunchecked, fanatical belief, while Fox's followers demonstrate thetranscending power of humanism and universal tolerance. . These occasions of quaking made the Friends easy targets for strict,conservative groups such as the Puritans. His followers began to becalled Children of Light and Friends of Truth. Yet without religious freedom, groups such as the Quakers might neverbe able to grow and flourish. Hill details the net effects of Puritanism and the infamous trials: Puritanism's legacy to the new Yankee world of self-help, individualism, and personal ambition was vast. The primary reason that the trials came toan end is that the girls making accusations lost their credibility bychoosing increasingly unlikely targets. Although the Society of Friends is arelatively small group, compared to some of the other Protestantdenominations that continue to worship together, Quakers continue to thepresent day. Soon, they were joined by others, and thecommunity began to look for an answer, something or someone to blame forwhat seemed to be an uncontrollable problem. Hedid not espouse a particular theology, although his roots were firmly inProtestant Christianity, but concentrated instead on the search for the"inner light" found within all living souls. . Although "Quaker" is now a widely accepted name for members of theSociety of Friends, it was, in the late seventeenth century, a derisivelabel. Frances Hill describes the climate inwhich quaking non-believers, however peaceful, were regarded: Well-meaning folk with different beliefs were thought not misguided but evil. . The two girls began to have fits andsee visions; Hill writes, "There can be no doubt that what beset [thesegirls] . Some attempts to connect with and release the inner light putfollowers into a trance-like state, sometimes inducing a shivering orquaking movement. New York: Viking, 1962.----------------------- 7 his conviction that to have missed in life a right relationship with God was to have missed what was most important in life. Had they confined their list ofsuspected witches to individuals already regarded as suspect by thecommunity they might have been able to continue to be believed by thePuritan majority. Simplicityprevents worldly distractions from coming between the believer and his orher personal, inner connections with Christ. One of the leaders in the Salem community, a small Massachusettscolony north of Boston, was the village pastor, Reverend Samuel Parris, "aman obsessed with the sinfulness he saw everywhere and with his ownimportance and status" (Hill 2). First published in1647, Fox spoke of his sense of the "Christ within" every human being. The religious order that grew to be known as Quakerism had its rootsin the writings of an Englishman named George Fox. Unlike some similar religious movements that argue for separationfrom a wicked world in order to achieve a greater closeness with God,Friends believe they have an obligation to remain involved with othersoutside the movement. Quakers and the Atlantic Culture. . Elderly RebeccaNurse had, with her husband, Francis, adopted a Quaker son; she was accusedand eventually hanged, despite her widely-held reputation as a good andpious woman. A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Both the Quakers and the Puritans were driven by this same need. [and] what its victims have incommon is powerlessness" (2 -21). . New York: DaCapo, 1995.Hoffer, Peter Charles. TheQuakers would have been quick to see the interests they held in common withthe Puritans, and this is a substantial reason for their ability to havesurvived to the present day. Once thedominant force, their strict convictions that they alone had the answers tolife were part of the reason for their ultimate downfall. By the time the hysteria had played itself out in mid-fall of thatyear, 19 people had been hanged for witchcraft, one had been pressed todeath, and four had died in jail while being held for trial. . Many othershad been imprisoned for months, suspected of witchcraft and reviled by thecommunity. It bequeathed self-discipline, self-denial, and moral and intellectual rigor. This paper is an examination of the role of members of the Society ofFriends in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. Works CitedHill, Frances. Witches and possession by the devil were a natural suspect. These twoconflicting forces illustrate the very human need to find meaning and asense of control in the face of fear, uncertainty, and mortality. New York: Octagon, 198 .West, Jessamyn. Beliefin witches was as common as belief in God, and forced confessions andpunishment of suspected witches had a long history within the Christianchurch. The witchcraft trials aired the Puritan suspicion of "the other" inthe most public ways possible. Yet they had no tolerance for otherbeliefs, and the hysteria that culminated in the witch trials in Salem in1692 was the direct result of this blind intolerance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U P, 1996.Tolles, Frederick B. Both the Quakers and the Puritans began in different times. However, it also bequeathed the tendency to separate evil from good and place evil outside the self and outside the group, in the enemy. Frederick B. Tolles writes, "The Quakers have neverwithdrawn completely from the world, but have always felt it a religiousduty to work out their testimonies in the midst of life" (2). Peter Charles Hoffer writes, "The Quaker . The Quaker Reader. Opponents found it easy to dismiss Friends as "quakers,"watching them undergo what appeared to uneducated eyes to be strange,uncontrolled possessions by outside forces. These two events suggest the worst and the best aspects ofreligious freedom in America. In the latter half of theseventeenth century, the Puritans were the dominant force in most of thecolonized areas of the New World. For them, common humanity shown to transgressors was blasphemy; it placed the mere human creature above God and His laws (1 ).The Puritans had come to America seeking a place where they would have thefreedom to follow their own beliefs. was clinical hysteria, . The society adheres to four basic testimonies: simplicity, equality,peace, and community. One of his daughters, Elizabeth, known asBetty, and his niece, Abigail, who lived with the family, began dabbling inamateur fortune telling, knowing that they were doing something of whichReverend Parris would not approve. Without qualms the Puritans whipped and hanged Quakers. Some of those accused happened tohave Quaker connections. [were] readytargets, for was not 'quaking' akin to possession? Pressured by the adults around them to point out the evil beings whowere causing their fits, the afflicted girls began to identify those withinthe community who were, through their supposed witchcraft and demonic ways,rebelling against the norms of society. Elizabeth Proctor, along, with her husband John,who was also accused when he tried to defend his wife, had familyaffiliations with Quaker believers; Elizabeth was spared from death becauseshe was pregnant, but John was executed on August 19. With that tendency came another: to regard such an enemy as deserving destruction (218). The books he read, the preachers he listened to, the controversies he entered and the prayers he made: all was done with one purpose - to know God (1). JessamynWest, herself a Quaker, points out the difficulty from a twentieth-centuryperspective of understanding, the God-hungriness of seventeenth-century man . Puritanism, on the other hand, has died out. It is almost impossible for twentieth-century man to understand the passionate seriousness with which seventeenth-century man addressed himself to this hunt for God. The Devil's Disciples: Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. The trials had theirbeginnings in 1691, the year that George Fox, founder of the Quakermovement, died. Playwright Arthur Miller, who fictionalized the story for his classicplay, The Crucible, was one of many to draw attention to the danger ofusing religious convictions to wield political power. Equality argues that everyhuman being has an equal capacity for inner light and self-realization.Peace is a necessary condition for recognizing personal power, andcommunity suggests the obligations and interconnections among all humanbeings in the world. . . In 166 , when Quakersfaced death for persisting in their heresy, Massachusetts judges had toldthe defendants that their crime was, 'like witchcraft,' a rebellion againstGod and the colony" (1 ).
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